Every night before I go to bed I envision myself waking up early to create a protein-rich breakfast, masterfully pack my super food lunch and come home to put my chef hat on to prepare a perfectly balanced dinner. But somehow, even with intentions so high, my healthy dining dreams are evaporated when I oversleep or come home ravenous and down too many handfuls of crackers the moment I step in the door. Can you relate?
We frequently fall into patterns of doing a few too many BLT’s (bites, licks and tastes) while cooking or digging into a big lunch because we failed to have a hearty breakfast. Luckily, bad habits are meant to be broken. Reversing unhealthy eating habits doesn’t mean you need to go cold turkey on enjoying a sweet treat now and then, but it does mean you need to make a pledge to conscious eating by cultivating a new approach where you pay attention to your body’s signals.
Let’s kick those old eating habits to the curb for some new, nourishing mottos that will get you on the road to a healthy dining routine.
***Bad Habit: Serious Snacker
New Motto: Smart Smacker
Healthy snacks in between meals are a great way to keep your hunger at bay and your metabolism moving. The problem is the word “snack” derives thoughts of chips, cookies and pretzels which bring very little (if any) nutrition to the table, so you can quickly overdo it without even flinching. You’ll be much better off if you prepare your in-between bites ahead of time by portioning sandwich bags with nuts, popcorn or fruits and veggies which will prevent you from snacking around the clock. If you know you can’t resist potato chips or crackers then don’t stock your pantry with them!
*Bad Habit: Portion Distortion
New Motto: Less is More
Like many of us out there, I eat with my eyes first and my belly later. When a measly portion of food is served to me I automatically start thinking that I am going into starvation before I even take the first bite. If you feel like you are being cheated, downsize your plate size so the appropriate portions don’t look like scraps. Or, bulk up with a gargantuan serving of vegetables to trick the mind. Bring on the salad!
**Bad Habit: Race to the Finish
New Motto: Chew Mindfully
I don’t know the last time you timed how long it took you to eat a meal, but chances are it is less than 20 minutes. Start savoring your meals by eating slower and extending your time at the table to at least 30 minutes. For slowdown success, avoid finger foods, put the fork down between each bite and drink water throughout your dining experience. Leave the shoveling action for when it snows.
**Bad Habit: Sweet Seeker
New Motto: Nurture Your Sweet Tooth
Have a habit of heading straight to the candy jar after you eat? Likely this has nothing to do with hunger and more to do with a habitual craving your taste buds have acquired. Try waiting 20 minutes after eating so your body has an opportunity to judge if it needs anything else. Rewire your definition of dessert. Great substitutions for your chocolate craving come in fruit form (sliced fruit or dried fruit) or a handful of whole grain cereal that is lightly sweetened. If you just can’t say goodbye to a piece of chocolate, opt for mini chocolate chips or peanut M&M’s (for some protein and sugar satisfaction).
Bad Habit: Crying into Ice Cream
New Motto: Trigger Buster
If a bad day at the office or a fight with a friend has you in a rage of emotional eating, it is time to find a new outlet for your stress and sentiments. When the act of putting food into your mouth is your savoir in hard times then try swapping for mouth busy foods like Jolly Ranchers or gum (rather than melt in your mouth ice cream). And, even better take your tensions elsewhere by going for a walk or calling up an empathetic family member. Be careful with celebratory eating too. Positive emotions are also a trigger to overindulge so take it easy on throwing a party for every engagement, baby shower or job promotion!
Bad Habit: Weekend Blow Out
New Motto: All Days are Created Equal
Feel like you flush five days of good eating habits down the toilet come Friday night? We all like to let loose when the alarm clock isn’t an issue, but being vigilant is a 7 day a week job. Strategy is key to self-control on the weekends so plan mini meals, look ahead at menus and keep the cocktails to a minimum. Being forward with your friends about your health habits will hopefully make your weekends a supportive time where veggies still make it onto your plate.
Bad Habit: Going Straight into Lunch
New Motto: Be a Breakfast Boss
It’s known that breakfast skippers are not saving any calories because you tend to make up for it later when your grumbling tummy takes over. Don’t think of your morning meal as a drawn-out affair that has to include bacons, eggs and the works. A simple meal of around 300 calories that hosts a punch of protein and fiber (like Chobani yogurt, fruit or oatmeal) will fuel you through the morning brain fog and help you maintain or achieve your weight loss goals.
Bad Habit: Nighttime Nosher
New Motto: Kitchen is Closed
Teach yourself that once dinner has ended the kitchen is closed for the evening. You can’t head back to a restaurant after hours, right? Also, brush your teeth as you are less likely to want to gorge once your mouth is fresh and clean. If the cravings won’t subside, try a small snack like a piece of fruit, yogurt or string cheese.